Wheaton Sites Meet Rising Demand for Outdoor Weddings

Couples have a wide-range of choices—a forest preserve, a golf course, even a zoo—for their nuptials as facilities have expanded in recent years.

Outdoor weddings are the rage in the 21st Century, so Tom Musick and Kate Daugherty are happily caught up in the momentum of communing with nature in holy communion.

The Chicago couple had no shortage of bucolic destinations when checking out the Wheaton area for their Aug. 3 nuptials. They settled on Cantigny, the institution with the greatest history and in their eyes the best indoor-outdoor options.

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“I went to a Cantigny wedding in 2008,” Musick said. “It’s really intimate.

“One of the first things we did was try to pick a part of the Chicagoland region to get married, out of how many hundreds of possible wedding sites. Kate’s family is from Aurora. Brother Joe lives in in Wheaton. We sort of decided early in the process to look in the western suburbs.

Cantigny has 5 outdoor sites

Musick and Daugherty are getting married on one of five outdoor Cantigny wedding sites. Their reception is in one of a pair of nearby halls. The cost is between $10,000 and $12,000.

“The only way I can see us moving inside is if there’s torrential rain,” Musick said. “The patio seats 110, the room seats 140. I liked that part of it. It’s convenient for our guest. We’re coordinating a shuttle for a nearby hotel.”

Although Mike Machay, director of food and beverage for Cantigny, did not comment on the number of wedding receptions and ceremonies booked during the busy season of April to October, the numbers of his nearby competitors are steadily increasing. And some newcomers have joined the busy pace of processions down the aisles.

With increased interest in outdoor ceremonies, Arrowhead adds space

Traditional spots like and Danada have been recently joined by Cosley Zoo and the , which are dabbling in the wedding game with prospects of increasing the number of ceremonies going forward.

Machay reports a steady increase in outdoor wedding ceremonies. “People want the same (site for) an outdoor-indoor ceremony and reception,” he said.

Arrowhead has ramped up its facilities for the outdoor wedding demand. A brand-new outdoor ceremony site that can handle up to 230 guests was built in 2010, four years after the golf course’s indoor facilities were rebuilt.

“We saw a big demand for outdoor weddings,” said Danielle Salerno, Arrowhead’s director of catering and banquets. The course has 56 weddings booked in the prime months—the same as in 2011—out of 90 total events this year.

“People want to be unique and different, Salerno said. “We’re totally booked for indoor receptions, but not all have a ceremony associated with it. We still have ceremony space available outdoors.”

Cantigny and Arrowhead have two types of appeals for outdoor ceremonies.

“Cantigny has been there for a long time,” Salerno said. “They’re old and well-known. They’re more like a forest-preserve feel. We’re a golf course.”

Meanwhile, Jill Ludvigsen, director at , 3S501 Naperville Road, suggests the design of new churches is prompting couples to look at outdoor weddings.

“Newer churches are so modern, but not as pretty,” Ludvigsen said.  “Some churches are not in nice buildings. Ours is part of the availability of an outside site that’s safe."

With recent facility improvements, Danada House is hosting 123 weddings in prime season this year, up from 113 in 2011.

New sites in Wheaton accommodate weddings

might be taking notes from the more established wedding facilities in its first year as a wedding site. The zoo has hosted its first two weddings this year.

“We have a couple of different (outdoor) spaces to rent,” said Tami Romejko, the zoo’s education supervisor. “It’s more for smaller groups. One is for 35 at our outdoor amphitheater. We also have the availability in our front yard space to accommodate a larger group. Our outdoor space used the duck pond pavilion.”

Romejko said the zoo can accommodate an indoor ceremony and/or reception to accommodate 100 while the rest of the zoo is open. After hours, the capacity increases to 200. The duck-pond reception rents for a minimum of two hours at $175. The outdoor amphitheater is $75 for a minimum of an hour. After-hours, renting the entire zoo facilities cost $1,695.

Also advertising its availability for weddings is the county historical museum. A spokesman said the museum has had three weddings and one rehearsal dinner in the past two years.

“Since the Wheaton Park District took over the museum in Oct. 2008, we’re starting to do more special events,” the spokesman said.

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